This is a study which focuses on the interaction between the Ga people, European traders and three Akan nations (the Akwamu, the Akyem and the Asante) in the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century. An attempt has also been made to outline the consequence these events had upon the nature of the Ga society during this period.
The date, the only acknowledge authority on Ga history is Reindorf’s history of the Gold Coast and Asante, which has been used extensively by others writing on the Ga people and by litigants in cases in the Accra courts. Reindorf’s book is mainly based on oral tradition and the works of European writers such Roemer and Bosman. He accepts most of the oral traditions and the contention of these European writers without cross-checking either sources with contemporary documentary evidence. Consequently, some of his narration shows of dating and personalities when they are closely checked against available documentary evidence. For example, Reindorf’s statement that Okai Kwei, King of Accra, died on 20th June, 1660 is not upheld by any documentary sources. Hence, his treatment of the period from 1600-1748 is somewhat sketchy and more importantly, he makes no clear attempt to establish the nature of the relationship which the Ga developed with their neighbours and with the Europeans who established forts on the Ga coast.
Other books which have been written on the Ga are Field’s Religion and Medicine of the Ga People and Social Organization of the Ga People. In the same category falls Manoukian’s The Akan and Ga-Adanme People which appears to have been based largely on field’s work. Although these books are supposed to be anthropological studies, the authors have made certain unsubstantiated assertions on the history of the Ga. For example, the statement that the Ga have never existed as a united political entity is simply not borne out of historical evidence. Kilson’s Kpele Lala, Ga Religious Songs and symbols is an attempt to bring to light the aspect of Ga Religion which Field had ignored. She has incorporated a valuable collection of Kpele songs covering many aspects of Ga Religion and Philosophy. However, although her section on ‘Ga polity’ deals with many events in Ga traditional history which are of immense value to the historian, some of her analysis as to the significance of the historical events which the songs describe should be accepted with caution.
Ollennu’s books, Customary Land Law and The Law of Testate and Intestate Succession in Ghana both include sections on the Ga. These books, based on court decisions, help to reveal many of the customs and mistaken notions which have often been attributed to the Ga people.
Various articles have also been written on the Ga. The leading contributions in this field are those of Quartey-Papafio, Nketia and Ozanne.
Extensive use has also been made of primary sources. These are mainly letters and diaries written by the employees of the European trading companies who lived on the coast during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These sources, by their very nature, have obvious limitations. They were written by officials who were often attempting to exonerate themselves and explain their actions to company directors who were thousands of miles away. The authors were therefore, inevitably sometimes guilty of twisting facts and misrepresenting the events which occurred on the Accra coast to suit their own particular agenda. An important qualification which counteracts this problem of overt subjectivity is the fact that the diaries and correspondence were kept by three different European nations who were virulent trade rivals on the coast. This meant that each group often inadvertently revealed what the other wished to conceal. Sometimes one is fortunate enough to come across the facts of a case long after the incident had occurred and the major participants have been removed from the scene.
The analysis of these historical sources involved going through the relevant records of the three European Companies viz. the Danish, the English and the Dutch. I spent one year in Copenhagen studying the records of the Danish African Company in the Rigsarkiv. I also went through some of the records of the English African trading companies in the Public Records Office in London. For my Dutch sources, I relied on Furley’s collection in the Balme Library of the University of Ghana. I have also made use of the published books of seventeenth and eighteenth century authors. The Danish writers, Tilleman, Rask, and Roemer were of extreme interest. Their books are a mixture of oral tradition and their own observations. Writers of other nationalities such as De Marees, Dapper, Bosman, Barbot and Isert, have also been used. All these authors have their own individual biases, and because most of them were officials of the trading companies, they sometimes misrepresent or exaggerate the facts to suit their personal interests and those of the companies whom they served.
To fill in the gaps in the above sources I went through some of the records of the British colonial government in the Secretary of Native Affairs (S.N.A.) papers in the Ghana National Archives. I also went through the court cases (S.C.T. series) in the National Archives to check the narrations of the Gat traditional authorities on the history of the Ga. These court records contained many spurious statements and moreover revealed a mass of distortions due to the fact that the narrators’ prime interest was concerned with winning their case.
Finally, extensive use has been made of oral traditions which I collected from stool elders, chiefs, ‘fetish priests’, priestesses and ordinary people. I talked to representatives in all the Ga and Adanme towns. I also had interviews with the paramount ruler of the Glidji, Fio Agbano II, and his elders, descendents of the Ga who fled to the present day Republique du Togo in 1680. My field work also involved recordings of traditional songs. Of these, the Klama songs of the Adanme and Kple songs of the Ga proved extremely useful as a source of historical information. These songs, which have been passed down from generation to generation, are conservative and therefore comparatively free from the deliberate changes and omissions to which oral traditions are often subjected.
In writing this thesis, I owe a debt of gratitude to my supervisor, A. Adu Boahen, whose genuine interest; patience, encouragement and criticism were of immense value. I am also grateful to Professor Glamann of the University of Copenhagen, who supervised my work whilst I was in Copenhagen. He made it possible for me to travel to London to collect material relevant to my work in the Public Records Office. I am also grateful Ole Jesessen, who helped me with my work whilst I was in Copenhagen, and to the Danish Government for the grant which enabled me travel to collect my material in Copenhagen and London. The late Dr. Daaku of the History Department, Edmund Collins of the Philosophy Department, Legon and Rev. Klufio of the Bible House, Accra also deserve my gratitude for their useful suggestions ans criticism. To the various chiefs, elders, priests and priestesses who gave me audience and supplied me with the information I needed, I say thank you. Mr. E.A. Amma (Ataa Numo) who lent me his documents sacrificed his time in spite of his ailments and arranged my recording session with the Olila priestess also deserve my sincere gratitude. I must also thank Messrs. N.P. Quarmyne and F.S.N. Padi for their assistance in my travels to the field work in Glidzi and the Adanme area. Finally, I am grateful to the various typists who typed this work and to Mr. L.A. Odotei for his assistance during the final stage of my work.